Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Hobo with a Shotgun

Well Abby, can I tell you something about bears?

Jarv’s Rating: The resident, now sadly absent, monkey, in a fit of positively zen like calm, once rated this film as one hobo with a shotgun out of one hobo with a shotgun, in that it is the quintessential example of a hobo with a shotgun. For my part, it can have one chang, because while it really is a very good example of a shotgun wielding itinerant, it isn’t an entertaining piece of exploitation and wonders dangerously near to torture porn on more than one occasion.

We can blame Cokey McFrankensteinhead for many of the sins that plague modern cinema, but there’s one sin that I really think we have to hold him and his cohort Robert Rodriguez to account for: the rise of the modern “exploitation” movie. Back before I realised that Tarantino was the cinematic embodiment of the stark bollock naked Emperor, I was genuinely quite excited by the thought of ultimate geek cinephile Tarantino making an homage to the 1970’s exploitation trash films. Sadly, the end product was the heinously bloated and monstrously boring Death Proof, where he managed to dash all the good will built up by Rodriguez’ mediocre Planet Terror and the incredibly entertaining intermission trailers. The Grindhouse film was, thankfully, a massive flop and Planet Terror and Death Proof were split up for most of the world, but as a completely unwanted side-effect it has so far managed to spawn two full length films from the trailer idea. The first is Rodriguez’ own Machete, and the second was the winner of a competition created specifically to promote Grindhouse, Jason Eisener’s Hobo with a Shotgun.

This is now the fifth of the modern exploitation films that I’ve seen (Planet Terror, Death Proof, Nude Nuns with Big Guns, and Machete are the others) and by far the best of the quintet is Machete. Interestingly, probably the worst is Death Proof, but that’s neither here nor there. I completely understand the attraction, these films were a blast back in the 70’s, promising an orgy of violence, cheesy dialogue, illicit nudity and so forth. However, the dominating feature of the 70’s version is that they were, well, cheap. As a result of financial constraints they were shot on 16MM, shown as part of a cheesy double feature with something else, and tended to have an awful lot of grain and close up camera work. Modern directors have comparatively more money than their 70’s counterparts, and as such artificially create the look and style of the originals. Whereas on one hand it was done from necessity, nowadays it is replicated through a faux-hipster sense of irony that’s completely unmerited. Not to mention unwanted. Furthermore, of the ones that I’ve seen, I would argue that only really Machete, and to some extent Planet Terror, understood what it was that made the originals fun. Tarantino’s Death Proof, for example, is not fun. It’s an interminable couple of bloodless and boobless hours listening to obnoxious women talking Tarantino. Whereas, in direct contrast, Machete stuffs the film full of boob at every available opportunity and the dialogue is cheesier than a Kraft factory. Which one of those do you think is nearer to the spirit of Grindhouse?

Hobo with a Shotgun falls between these two extremes. The story is pure trash cinema: Hobo turns up in a town run by Drake and his two psychotic sons Slick and Ivan, falls in with the local hooker and eventually cleans the town up. With a Shotgun. However, while it certainly supplies the gore, and has a reasonable stab at the cheesy dialogue, it also imitates the camera techniques to a fault and, worse than that, isn’t any fun. This, actually, is a film that skirts dangerously near to Torture Porn in my opinion, in that the entire raison d’être of the film is to watch suffering inflicted on cardboard cut out characters. That it isn’t torture porn, despite the utter lack of entertainment, is that the killings are not protracted, for the most part, and the slaughter has a sense of justice to it. The first half of the film sees Drake et al committing atrocities, and the second has the Hobo’s revenge.

Eisener has set out deliberately to be as close to those 70’s exploitation films as he can, and as such he stuffs the film full of a hell of a lot of gore and bloodshed. However, there’s a very, very unpleasant edge to a lot of the violence here. In fact, it feels remarkably mean spirited on several occasions. The shining example I would give is the Hobo having to eat broken glass for $50. I, actually, don’t mind this particularly, but he’s already been degraded, hurt and humiliated so it feels a step too far, and therefore gratuitous. In contrast, some of the gore, such as Slick carving “Scum” into the Hobo’s chest doesn’t feel like this, it feels necessary for the atmosphere that the film is going for. I just feel that Eisener didn’t know where to stop on occasion, and when he goes too far, he goes far too far.

There are other moments like this that operate to the detriment of the film: Ivan ejaculating when electrocuted with the toaster and Abby using the bloody stump of her arm to lever up the manhole grid being two easy examples to pick on. However, and it’s an interesting however, this is contrasted against (while no doubt incredibly violent sequences) whole scenes that do work incredibly well. Particularly amusing are the montage scenes with the newspaper headlines (actually the best bit of the film is the execution of the paedophile Father Christmas), and the Plague’s assault on the hospital.

Part of the problem here is the writing. I’ve struggled with how to enunciate the failure here and I think it can best be described as too knowing. There’s a smug sense of cleverness running underneath the script: Ivan’s “I just came” line being a prime example of this. It’s very difficult to pinpoint the precise moments and I am aware that I’m operating on an entirely subjective nuance here, but this faux-post modernism gave me the feeling that the film was far too pleased with itself, and quite unjustifiably so at that.

I’m really coming down hard on this film, and I’m very probably been harsh on it. However, as much as the script is trying too hard, the acting is, for the most part, far better than the film deserves. Nick Bateman, Gregory Smith and Brian Downey are deliberately over the top as Ivan, Slick and Drake respectively, and I would like to see Molly Dunsworth (who plays Abby the hooker) in something better, as she clearly can act. Nevertheless, the film has a trump card to play, and play it it does: Rutger Hauer is on great form as the Hobo. We all know that Rutger can play unhinged in his sleep (honestly, those Guinness advertisements from the 80’s scarred me, never mind Blade Runner, The Hitcher, Split Second etc) but what I didn’t know was how good his timing can be. He’s head and shoulders above everyone else here, and the story really does waste his not inconsiderable talents. Shame.

Overall, I can’t help but feel that this should have stayed a trailer. It’s just too unpleasant a watch, too smug and entirely too self satisfied. There really isn’t a lot going for Hobo with a Shotgun, and needless to say I don’t recommend it. If you remember my roll call of modern exploitation at the beginning, there’s one film missing from that list: Rick Jacobsen’s Bitch Slap. This is the film that modern exploitation cinema should be watching- and I really do wish that they would rather than returning to the increasingly tired well of faux-irony. That, really, sums up my feelings about Hobo with a Shotgun: I sat there thinking “I wish Rick Jacobsen had made this”.

Next up is the final modern exploitation film that I’m doing: Machete, and I’ve certainly saved the best for last.

Until next time,

Jarv.

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

35 responses to “Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Hobo with a Shotgun”

  1. Jarv says :

    I’m really pleased with this review. Completely wasted on the film, mind.

  2. Xiphos0311 says :

    haven’t seen any of these new Grindhouse movies except for Cokey’s and Rodriquez relaunch. Maybe becasue I have seen some of the originals as a kid at drive ins I can’t get into this new homage wave, it just seems so inauthentic.

    • Jarv says :

      Don’t bother. They’re all pretty shit.

      • Jarv says :

        That’s a good word for it: inauthentic.

        That’s because they are inauthentic- hence Rodriguez putting grain effects back into Machete.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        the originals were they way they were because they were cheap and made by hacks with bad actors but at least that was organic. If you’re imposing the effects through technology then its just an exercise in marketing and cynicism.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        i left out something above. I forgot to say that if you hire decent to good actors and tell them to act badly that adds to the cynicism of the movie.

      • Continentalop says :

        the originals were they way they were because they were cheap and made by hacks with bad actors but at least that was organic.

        Damn right. I always say the original grindhouse and exploitation films were occasionally good despite their aesthetics not because of it. The films looked shitty and had a lot of hacks and turds working on them, but the creators of the good films had drive, hunger, ambition, talent and a vision that you just can’t imitate and pluck down in a multi-million dollar modern movie. They had to be more ballsy and creative because of necessity, something modern filmmakers do not have to be when imitating these films.

  3. Continentalop says :

    Actually Jarv, the best faux exploitation film in recent years is Black Dynamite.

    “I threw that shit before I walked in the room!”

  4. tombando says :

    I loathed deathproof. One of the worst.

  5. Droid says :

    This is why I’ve not bothered to watch this yet. Too unpleasant.

    Planet Terror is the best one out of the recent grindhouse movies. Machete repeats the same gags over and over. The first twenty minutes are great though. Black Dynamite is good, but it’s a spoof. Bitch Slap is awesome.

    • Jarv says :

      Don’t bother with it. It isn’t entertaining.

      You’ll hate it- far more than me, as it comes far too near to TP for you. I can list, easily, 10 different instances of gratuitous unpleasantness in the film, and lingering gratuitous nastiness at that:

      1) The bus of kids,
      2) Slick’s cock
      3) The hand in the lawnmower
      4) The Arcade sequence
      5) The Broken glass
      6) The manhole part 1
      7) The mahonle reprised
      8 ) The attempted rape
      9) Cutting the hobo
      10) Ivan ejaculating

      Basically, every time Slick is on screen something unpleasant happens. I can excuse probably about 3 of the above (Manhole part 1, cutting, attempted rape) as they work in context of the plot. The rest are just gratuitous acts of sadism.

  6. Bartleby says :

    Good review Jarv, and I don’t think you were too harsh. In fact, I think you were kind of lenient considering this piece of loathsome trash. I saw this bout four months ago and never wrote it up because it just felt like shooting fish in a barrell. Dunsworth and Hauer do give it their all and they deserve better.

    That’s the end of my kudos. This is terribly mean-spirited, and it isnt in one or two occasions, it’s nearly every scene. Granted most of the violence is obviously concocted at a cartoonish level, and they seem to be aiming for a ‘Street Trash’ kind of vibe. The problem is the sentiment and gleeful perversion behind every violent scene.

    One of the worst offenses–far outshadowing the glass-eating scene–is something not even Troma would go for: a bus full of little grade-school kids getting blowtorched to death by Ivan and Sick, and then the two perverts holding up their smoldering, flesh-charred corpses on television to send a message to the parents of the city to not help out Hobo.

    It’s just an exercise in cruelty, cynicism and, as Xi puts it above, insincerity. And he’s right. I’ve never liked any of the grindhouse movies thus far because I’ve seen so many of the originals and these just feel like exercises in pretension.

    The one that actually comes closest to working is a new one, and it’s ctually less grindhouse and more a faux rendition of those christian exploitation flicks from the 70s. It’s called Satan Hates You, and it’s done by Glass Eye Pix and Larry Fessenden, the same folks who have been working with Ti West lately.

    It misses the mark of good, but it actually understands the movie it’s trying to ape and attempts commentary. There’s zero commentary in the above mentioned fiascos.

    And although I found Machete to be mildly amusing for the first ten minutes or so, it’s a severely unnecesary film. You are right, it is the best of them though.

    • Jarv says :

      I didn’t talk about that, because although it is severely unpleasant and heinously mean spirited, it doesn’t (astonishingly) go close to the torture. It’s (or the version I watched) cuts away from it, and you see the aftermath.

      I could have talked about Slick losing his cock as well. Fuck, actually, I wonder if I’ve been generous now.

      • Bartleby says :

        Yea, I personally hated it and would have orang doomed it, but I can see giving it points I guess for Howard. The thing is not all of the mean-spirited stuff is just down to what we see visually… there are scenes of suggested rape and pedophilia and child murder in this that are three times ickier and more sinister than the sight of Dunworth’s hand being reduced to a stick of bone. The whole damn thing just wallows in the gutter

        Wait, Ivan is the kid from Small Soldiers? Aww man!

      • Jarv says :

        No.

        Slick was. Even worse.

        The thing about Dunsworth’s hand that is so bad, is that it comes off- fine, then she uses the stump to stab Drake (nice). If it stopped there it would be OK, but she THEN fucking uses the stump of bone to lever the manhole up- yuck. This, actually, is indicative of what’s wrong with the film: it’s trying to be too gross and too clever.

        The paedo thing is bang front and centre, but the hobo shoots him instantly. The rape shit in it you never see, thank the fucking lord, but it’s there.

      • Jarv says :

        Shit. Missed Dunsworth’s neck and the hacksaw off that list by accident.

        I’m started to think that this may be TP, you know. It’s very, very fucking close.

      • Bartleby says :

        the thing with slick losing his cock is he deserves it. I dont’ find that stuff half as mean spirited because it’s the ‘justice’ portion of the movie. I know, I know, it’s catering to our blood lust but some of that is only slightly worse than scenes like RoboCop blowing a big red hole where the rapists balls used to be in that Verhoeven film (kudos to Murphy for shooting through the dress).

        The really mean spirited stuff was watching the violence done to women, the homeless, and kids, which honestly makes up about 70% of the violence in the movie.

      • Jarv says :

        That’s not what happens though.

        The hobo blows his cock off- this is fine. I’m absolutely OK with this. However, where it goes too far, is that he THEN calls his father and tugs at the piece of mutilated gristle while on the phone- you know for a fucking fact that was just done for the KEWL factor.

      • Jarv says :

        Also- Ivan ejaculating into the toaster is absolutely unforgivable on any level.

      • Bartleby says :

        don’t be too hard on yourself. it would take an anal retentive scholar to properly catalogue all the sick and ill-advised crap in this one. Also, what is a true testament to the utter bankruptcy of talent in the filmmakers is their inability to catch on to the chemistry between dunsworth and hauer. He keeps trying to warm things up with this sort of surrogate father vibe, and they do make a good team, but the dopey dumbass ‘filmmakers’ keep remembering that they have to inflict some suffering and smug dialgoue right quick.

      • Jarv says :

        It’s just fucking relentless from start to finish. There isn’t a fucking break in it aside from the newspaper sequence.

      • Jarv says :

        What I don’t understand is the amount of glowing reviews for it out there. It’s one of the worst manifestations of post-modern shite coupled with modern day sadistic film-making out there, Yet the number of 9/10 reviews is inexplicable.

        They made me start to think that I’d seen a different film.

      • Jarv says :

        The other thing, is in a small way I could almost forgive it if the film didn’t finish the way it does. It SHOULD have finished with the hobo and dunsworth walking off. What happens instead is just the final kick in the nuts, and I read that originally Dunsworth was meant to get a gun/ sword put on the spike and become the other one of The Plague. Which is marginally better than what happens.

      • Bartleby says :

        ok, I forgot the tugging on the gristle part…like i said, there’s just so much it’s hard to recall it all…and doing so is like taking a shower in liquid shit.

      • Jarv says :

        Yup.

        I’m meant to be writing up Machete today to finish this run and I’m not sure I can be arsed. It’s so much better than Hobo, in that it is at least amusing for a while, but it more than outstays its welcome.

    • koutchboom says :

      Yeah Street Trash is the movie I compared this to when I saw it.

  7. Bartleby says :

    Im also excluding black dynamtie because it is parody, and a damn fine one at that.

  8. Bartleby says :

    One final point…the Plague have been ported in from a different film entirely. I know they are supposed to be the film’s cool card, but it just doesn’t work. By the time they are properly introduced–hilariously I might add when the phone rings and one of them is in the dungeon fighting an octopus or something–they just feel like a last ditch afterthought to make this as balls-out crazy as possible. Never felt very crazy though because not a single thing here is new. It’s the opposite. It’s boring.

    The real shame is that a movie with Hauer’s hobo eliminating sick trash is something Im fine with. Theproblem is his eventual vengeance on these people is overshadowed by the evil they do against the city and against he and dunsworth. The filmmakers were clearly more enamored with watching the innocents suffer than dealing out punishment on the evil doers.

    • Jarv says :

      The Plague don’t work. Not at all.

      In fact, they’re ludicrously out of context of the film, and don’t fit with the vibe at all. However, the hospital scene with them is one of the few scenes in the film that does hit the exploitation vibe it’s trying for.

      I still wince at Slick breaking that kid’s hand on the arcade joystick. I can’t believe he was the lad in Small Soldiers.

  9. just pillow talk says :

    Fuck, glad I never got to this one even though it’s been sitting in the instant queue. Fuck that, sounds awful.

  10. ThereWolf says :

    Pity about this. Rutger’s always worth a watch. I’d seen Bart mention ‘Hobo’ before and I knew he disliked it. They’ve just gone out of their way to be nasty, presuming that’s what the target audience is there to see.

    I do really like ‘Planet Terror’ though. ‘Death Proof’ is just talk-talk-talk… then livened by a couple of decent stunts. Left thinking – more stunts, less talk = better movie.

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